North America isn’t all bright lights and concrete jungles. Its wide open spaces and varied landscapes are a haven for wildlife if you know where to look.
Just like the continent, the animals that inhabit it are rugged, hardy and, at times, enormous. Bears of all shapes and sizes traverse forests and snow-capped peaks, while cougars and wolves call the mountainous terrain their home. Eagles and other birds of prey soar overhead manatees and crocodiles splashing through the waters, while the mighty bison and moose treat visitors to incredible sightings while driving through national parks.
The United States has an almost endless supply of places to explore, but for a true sense of wilderness, head to the Canada, the land known as the Great White North. Both countries are large enough to promise a completely different experience each and every time you visit.
Read the animal and destination guides below to start planning your wild North American adventure.
North American Wildlife Destinations
Canada’s wilderness is a treat for any animal lover. Beavers, squirrels and raccoons are commonplace, but visitors fortunate enough to see them can watch bears hunting for crabs along the shores. Boat trips to the open ocean search for various species of whales, sea otters and seals too. Still not enough for you? Head to the most northerly points to look for one of the most elusive animals in the world… the polar bear.Learn More About Canada
Home to arguably the world’s most famous National Parks, the USA promises natural wonders and animal sightings aplenty. Visit Yellowstone to see wolves, bison and more in their natural habitat, while reptile lovers are in for a treat in the desert landscapes at Big Bend National Park, thanks to the uniquely adapted lizards and snakes who thrive in the dry environment. Further east, manatees, alligators and dolphins love the tropical waters of Florida, and so will you.
North American Wildlife
While perhaps the majority of trips to North America aren’t focused on wildlife, they could be.
The breadth of animal species that call the continent home are as varied as any other in the world. From the seas to the mountains, and the lakes and forests in between, who knows what might be around the corner?
Three different species of bear can be found in North America: black bears, brown bears (also known as grizzlies!) and, in the far north of the continent, polar bears. Though you may be lucky enough to spot them on your own travels, either on roadsides or in the open, join a tour with an expert guide to improve your chances.
Often known as ‘sea cows’ thanks to their grazing habits and size, manatees are actually more closely related to elephants than any bovine creature. These mammals live in the warm, shallow waters of Florida and the Caribbean, where they feed on a herbivore diet of algae, grass and fallen leaves from the mangroves.
Typically found in forests and wild marshes, racoon sightings are becoming more common in cities thanks to the endless supply of food in and around humans. Affectionately known as ‘trash pandas’ to the locals that spot these adorable masked mammals rooting through their garbage at night.
There’s no denying that cougars are stunning. The second largest cat in the Americas (behind the jaguar), cougars win first prize for having the most names: cougar, mountain lion, panther and puma. Unlike other big cats, they cannot roar, but do purr, just like domestic cats. But that’s not where the resemblance ends. They also share a similar body type, with pointed ears and slender bodies.
The instantly recogniseable moose are the largest deer species in the world. The antlers on male moose are shed annually, and can grow as long as 6 feet from end to end in spring/summer. Antlers are mostly used to attract a mate, but will also be seen as a sign of dominance among male moose. They tend to use their hooves to fight off predators rather than their antlers, however.
American alligators have been roaming the land and water on earth for around 84 million years. Since then, they have evolved very little and have more in common with dinosaurs than with other modern reptiles. Now, they inhabit the warm climes of Florida and Louisiana, where they can grow between 3 and 5 metres long and live for around 50 years.